'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'
Rated: E 10+
Who it's for: Nintendo fans and fighting game enthusiasts
Console: Nintendo Switch
A game with Mario, Link, Pikachu, Solid Snake, Simon Belmont, Cloud Strife, Mega Man, the Villager from "Animal Crossing" and many more probably shouldn't exist. It's like something a 12-year-old thought up while daydreaming in history class.
But somehow, Nintendo has been giving fans the unexpected since it launched "Super Smash Bros." on Nintendo 64 nearly 20 years ago.
The fighting game series has amassed a loyal following over the years with its easily accessible mechanics, massive roster of characters and light, bloodless aesthetics.
Nintendo has upped the stakes with "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" for Switch. The developers decided to give fans ... well ... everything. Every fighter, every stage, every music track that's ever appeared in the series — and then some.
"Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" packs so much stuff into its tiny card you'll wonder what could possibly be left. Apparently, a lot. Not only does the game include several new fighters off the bat, Nintendo has already announced an ambitious DLC plan with a first installment introducing the first inclusion of the "Persona" series of games.
The overall presentation isn't radically different than previous "Smash" games. Players start with a paltry selection of eight playable fighters and more than 60 waiting to be unlocked.
This can be done either in Classic mode or the new Adventure mode, "World of Light."
In "World of Light" players must navigate a massive map to release Spirits and fighters trapped by a mysterious force. Each round features unique conditions, many of which must be countered to triumph.
In one round, you may encounter a giant character with extra strength and stamina, while in another, you'll find high winds that whip your character right off the screen.
Combine unlocked spirits into teams to enhance your fighter. Each one features abilities and stat boosts to make you stronger and more capable. Spirit teams can be saved and used later in Classic mode, which offers another way to unlock characters, challenging players to beat six fighters, run through a bonus round and face a boss.
It takes time to unlock everyone, but that's half the fun. It also gives you the chance to try out different characters to see which ones suit your personal style. I have been favoring Kirby, Link and Bowser, depending on the match, but I also enjoy trying others looking for hidden gems.
In addition to the rich single-player offerings, the game supports up to eight players locally or online for some frantic matches.
This content-rich package is well balanced (though some tweaks will likely be incoming) and both looks and sounds better than any previous installment.
With its plethora of game modes, unbelievable amounts of unlockables and finely tuned gameplay, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" lives up to its name and is a must-play for any fan of the series.
If you're looking for a great holiday gift for the gamer in your life, consider the newly released book "Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play" by Meagan Marie (Prima Books, $24.99).
Since its inception, the game industry has been perceived as a boy's club — a valid criticism in a lot of ways. However, women have contributed to the industry every step of the way, in every conceivable capacity.
This volume examines 100 women from every field in games, from writers and producers to programmers and PR executives, spanning the industry from the 1970s to present day.
In addition to the profiles, there are essays, testimonials and intimate looks at what an average workday looks like for many of the jobs. It's a meticulously researched and reported package.
It's also an important one. Playing games has moved from the stereotypical geek in his mother's basement to a mainstream, inclusive affair. Women need to know this extends to the creative aspects of the industry as well.
Just as representation is important within media, it's equally important for people to see themselves behind the scenes. This book does that extremely well.